Waste-to-art: How Delhi has emerged as a centre of unusual theme parks
The idea came from a movie scene (Badrinath Ki Dulhania), and has, over the last five years, grown into several multi-crore theme park projects
New Delhi: With the inauguration of Bharat Darshan Park in West Delhi's Punjabi Bagh last month, Delhi now can boast of two major “waste-to-art” theme parks which are becoming fairly popular among city dwellers. The first park designated as “Waste to Wonder” was opened for the public by the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) in February 2019. It features replicas of the seven wonders of the world which have been set up using 150 tonnes of scraps of automobile parts and other metal waste such as rods, iron sheets, nut- bolts, bicycle and bike parts, and old appliances that were lying rusting in municipal yards. The then SDMC municipal commissioner, Puneet Goel, reported that the idea of the park was inspired by Kota's Seven Wonders park in Rajasthan, where a scene of Bollywood film Badrinath Ki Dulhania was shot. A corporation team visited Kota Park in 2017, following which the Delhi project was conceptualised.
The idea that came from the movie scene has, over the last five years, grown into several multi-crore theme park projects, of which two have been operationalised while three others have been announced by the current municipal commissioners of East and South MCD. A lack of open recreational theme park spaces after the closure of Appu Ghar and Delhi Eye near Kalindi Kunj, additional points accorded for such waste reuse projects under Swachh rankings along with the lucrative revenue generation observed in the existing facilities fuel the growth of these parks.
Dr Alok Singh, director of the horticulture department, SDMC, who has overseen the implementation of the first two projects said that Delhi should now aim for theme park-based open green facilities, as seen in Singapore and Dubai. "The demand patterns clearly show that more theme-based green park spaces are needed in the city," he added.
Waste to Wonder Park (2019)
Opened in February 2019, the Waste to Wonder park is spread over five acres in Rajiv Gandhi Smriti Van near Sarai Kale Khan. It was built at the cost of ₹7.5 crore. It features replicas of the seven wonders made from 150 tonnes of scrap metal — Taj Mahal (20 ft), the Great Pyramid of Giza (18 ft), Eiffel Tower (60 ft), Leaning Tower of Pisa (25 ft), Rio de Janeiro's Christ the Redeemer (25 ft), Rome's Colosseum (15 ft) and New York's Statute of Liberty (30 ft).
Besides turning the old Smriti Van into popular selfie points, the corporation has also made this theme park a feature of green energy; the facility is self-sufficient to run on its renewable energy with 3 windmills (worth 1 KW), 3 solar trees (worth 5 KW) and rooftop solar panel (10 KW). The data from the corporation shows that the flagship project received a footfall of 1.55 million people in the first year leading to revenue collection of ₹8 crore, leading to the complete recovery of input costs within the first 12 months. The popularity of the park was comparable to the National Zoological Park which had a footfall of 2.2million in the same period.
The wonder park has since been making profits for the financially strained corporation along with securing recognition from the Quality Council of India and the Earth Day Network in 2021.
Bharat Darshan Park (2021)
Fuelled by an overwhelming response and financial incentives to the Wonder Park, the South MCD decided to set up a similar, but much larger, project in an 8.5-acre plot park located in Punjabi Bagh. The construction of the park started in January 2020 and the project faced multiple delays during the Covid pandemic. SDMC mayor Mukesh Suryan said that ₹20 crore has been spent on its construction, whereby nearly 350 tonnes of scrap have been turned into replicas of 22 Indian historical monuments by a team of eight artists, 22 assistants, and 150 workers or welders.
The park features replicas of historical monuments such as Qutab Minar, Taj Mahal, Char Minar, Gateway of India, Konark Temple, Nalanda Stupa, Mysore Palace, Meenakshi Temple, Hampi, Victoria Memorial, Sanchi Stupa, Gol Gumbaz, Ajanta and Ellora Caves, Hawa Mahal. Bharat Darshan Park witnessed about 12,000 visitors and sales of tickets worth over ₹15.4 lakh in the first two days of the new year, data from the municipal corporation shows, before it was shut due to a rise in Covid cases in the city.
Before being shut down, the Bharat Darshan Park was witnessing more footfall than its Sarai kale Khan counterpart, according to the ticket sale data. Leader of the House in SDMC, Inderjeet Sehrawat, said that the park is likely to recover the input cost even before the first 12 months of operationalisation, but officials suspect the pandemic induced closures may delay recovery.
In the pipeline: Bollywood Park, Shaheedi Park, Celebration Park
Carrying the momentum forward, the SDMC now plans to develop two more parks in Jangpura and ITO. While delivering the budget proposals for 2022-23 in November 2021, municipal commissioner Gyanesh Bharti announced that to mark the 75th year of Independence, a plan has been made to develop Bollywood Park and Shahidi Park on similar lines. A senior official from the horticulture department said that the Bollywood Park at Jangpura will focus on “the journey of Bollywood film industry and its history” while the Shahidi Park project will focus on the freedom movement and the Indian resistance to foreign invasions.
“Instead of just using metal scrap as was carried out in the first two parks, these parks will use glass, plastic and C&D [construction and demolition] waste to recreate scenes, statues and art exhibitions,” an official remarked.
With municipal elections slated a few months later, the approval for these parks will need to wait for a fresh municipal administration as the financial crunch in the civic body has put any new projects on hold. EDMC commissioner, Vikas Anand, has also announced that a waste-to-art park will be developed in Nirman Vihar of East Delhi. "The site for Celebration Park has been selected near Nirman Vihar Metro station, and DDA [Delhi Development Authority] handed over the 2.7 acres to the civic body. However, the Celebration Park will not have monument replicas," a senior horticulture official said.
The expansion of existing parks
With the completion of the “Bharat Darshan Park”, the SDMC has started the planning for phase 2 of the project in which replicas of 17 monuments from remaining states and Union Territories will be recreated using scrap material.
The plan is to feature at least one monument or cultural icon from each state. The second phase will also focus on the Northeastern states by featuring the Unakoti caves from Tripura, Rang Ghar from Assam, a Naga house replica from Nagaland, Mizo dance from Mizoram, wood masks from Sikkim, Behdienkhlam festival from Meghalaya, and figurines of Manipuri dancers. The other monuments from hilly states will be the Thiksey monastery from Ladakh Union Territory, Nishant Bagh from Jammu and Kashmir, and Masroor temple from Himachal Pradesh. A similar expansion plan has also been formulated for the Waste to Wonder Park.
Waste-to-art: A prominent feature in municipal budgets
As a positive development over the last couple of years, the waste-to-art section now forms a permanent section in the municipal corporation’s annual budget process for horticulture departments.
The south corporation has already utilised more than 15 tonnes of scrap from its stores and workshops to create 30 art installations placed in various municipal parks across the city.
The north DMC has also expressed interest in starting a waste-to-art workshop in Rohini’s Durbalnath Vatika, while East MCD has incorporated some waste-to-art concepts such as benches and street furniture made from old tyres in multiple municipal parks. Earlier this year, the corporation had come out with a “mobile mini-park” — in which an old, unused truck of the EDMC was converted into a park for children using material drawn from its junkyard. The old truck has been refurbished with a play zone specifically to be used for unplanned areas with lack of parks and open spaces.